MPI works within a robust legislative framework to lead New Zealand's biosecurity system. Learn more about the law supporting biosecurity in New Zealand.

Purpose of the biosecurity system

The biosecurity system prevents or manages risks from harmful organisms, like pests and diseases. The biosecurity system helps protect New Zealand's economy, environment, human health, and a range of social and cultural values. It does this by stopping pests and diseases before they arrive or dealing with them if they do enter the country.

Agencies involved in the biosecurity system

MPI is the lead agency for biosecurity. MPI administers the Biosecurity Act 1993 and advises the Minister for Primary Industries on biosecurity issues. MPI provides inspectors at the border. The inspectors manage risks from people, planes, vessels (like ships), and goods coming to the country. MPI also maintains a rapid-response system for incursions by harmful pests and diseases.

Many other agencies have a role in biosecurity, including:

  • other government departments – can get involved in a response when the organisms affect their responsibilities
  • regional councils – play a major part in pest management within their regions
  • industry organisations – can take the lead in managing harmful organisms that affect their members
  • iwi or community groups – can work with MPI to manage or eradicate harmful organisms that are of concern to them.

Biosecurity legislation

The Biosecurity Act 1993 provides the legal framework for MPI and others to help keep harmful organisms out of New Zealand and respond if any do make it into the country. 

Border risk management

The Act helps MPI effectively manage the risks that come with:

  • importing goods, which may have harmful organisms in or on them
  • any planes and vessels (like ships) coming into New Zealand or our waters.

The Act controls all goods that come into New Zealand. It requires that all goods get biosecurity clearance before they are allowed unrestricted access to the country.

The Act gives MPI a range of powers and duties to help them manage the risks from incoming vessels, people, and goods.

Readiness and response

The Act also gives agencies a wide range of powers to deal with harmful organisms through readiness and response activities. These powers include being able to enter property, impose movement controls, destroy infected property, and give directions. The Act also includes reporting obligations for and restrictions on spreading harmful organisms.

Recent changes to the Act were designed to help the government and industry work together to make decisions about preparing for and responding to harmful organisms and paying for those activities. This is called the Government Industry Agreement for Biosecurity Readiness and Response (GIA).

Pest management

If an organism gets established in New Zealand, the Act allows for national and regional pest management plans. Industry organisations have used national pest management plans to manage organisms that damage their sectors, while regional councils use regional pest management plans to do their biosecurity work.

The Act also provides for pathway management plans, which can be used to help control the many avenues within New Zealand by which harmful organisms might be spread.

Download the National Policy Direction for Pest Management 2015 [PDF, 6.8 MB]

Download the Pest Management National Plan of Action [PDF, 2.1 MB]

Other legislation

MPI is also responsible for the National Animal Identification and Tracing Act 2012. This Act established an animal identification and tracing system for a number of reasons, which included improving biosecurity management. The Act applies to cattle and deer.

The following Acts, administered by other departments, also have a role in the overall prevention or management of risks from harmful organisms.

Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996

The purpose of this Act is to protect the environment, and the health and safety of people and communities by preventing or managing the adverse effects of hazardous substances and new organisms.

The Act sets up a process for the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to assess new organisms. Before a new type of organism can be deliberately imported or released into New Zealand, it needs approval from the EPA.

If a new organism is imported incidently with other imported goods, this is dealt with under the Biosecurity Act, rather than by the EPA.

MPI is responsible for enforcing the law regarding new organisms in the Act.

Health Act 1956

This Act gives powers to officials to deal with infectious and notifiable diseases.

Wild Animal Control Act 1977

This Act applies to all deer, chamois, thar (tahr), wild goats, and wild pigs.

The Act restricts activities like capturing or liberating wild animals. It gives various powers, like the power to hunt or kill any wild animal.


Last reviewed: | Has this been useful? Give us your feedback
Document cart